In the past few years, global awareness of China’s current human rights violations has grown exponentially, but the United Nations and many world leaders have made little to no response. Frankly, most people around the world, including Christians, have been silent on the issue of China’s human rights violations.
Last month, the Biden administration held its first talks with Chinese officials. Though Biden officials mentioned China’s treatment of Uighurs in the Xinjiang province and China’s attempted pacification and takeover of the Hong Kong people, they did not discuss China’s forced labor of over 500,000 Tibetans. Each of these situations is appalling enough, but the fact that they are happening simultaneously is egregious and demands a response, not only from humanitarians and legislators but also from empathetic Christians.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been detaining Uighurs (a Muslim people group indigenous to the Xinjiang region of China) in reeducation camps since at least April 2017, according to experts and government officials. Chinese officials claim these reeducation programs help minimize terrorism and religious extremism in the region. Since 2017, reports and testimony from survivors detail indoctrination, separation from family, rape, torture, force sterilization, and more. A recent report by Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a think tank that specializes in foreign policy issues, concludes that, regarding the Uighur people, China has breached every provision in the UN’s Genocide Convention. In response, the US Congress passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act in 2020. This law requires various US government bodies to investigate and report on human rights violations against the Uighur people, but it did not end or slow the Uighur genocide. However, last month a coalition of Western nations leveled sanctions on China because of the CCP’s treatment of the Uighurs.
Hong Kong Suppression
In 2019, the local government in Hong Kong announced a bill that would enable extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. Under this bill, Hong Kong citizens would have been tried in Chinese courts, which would have been an unjust and grave violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong. In response, Hong Kongers protested in record numbers. During this time, China used its police and military to help quelch civil unrest and regain control of the population. After over six months of record-breaking protests in the streets of Hong Kong, the government withdrew the bill. But this Chinese attempt to gain more power still led Hong Kongers to protest for stronger democracy in their administrative region.
During these protests, the Chinese government arrested and detained several well-known pro-democracy Hong Kongers, who will stand trial for what the regime deems as a plot to overthrow the government. In response, current US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented, “Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes. The US stands with the people of Hong Kong.”
Tibetan Forced Labor
The Jamestown Foundation last September found that, in the first seven months of 2020, China placed over 500,000 Tibetans into forced labor camps. The government gave them military-style vocational training and transported them throughout Tibet and various regions of China to perform jobs. China’s relocation program for Tibetans started in 2006, but the program’s military-style vocational training is a more recent development in the CCP’s plan to strip Tibetans of their homeland, communities, and sense of cultural and religious identity as a people.
China claims that, by training farmers and rural workers in Tibet and transporting them, it gives Tibetans an opportunity for better lives, and that many are or should be grateful. Whether the government conducts the training and relocation because of classism, the CCP’s fear of not having complete control over Tibet and its citizens, or the kindness of Xi Jinping’s heart, the program is being done coercively, against the Tibetans’ will, and effectively amounts to slavery. In December 2020, Congress passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which supports Tibetans’ rights to choose the successor to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. This act was met with joy from Tibetan leaders and disdain from Chinese leaders. Though the act reassures Tibetans that America supports their religious liberty and general autonomy as a people, it is ineffectual in terms of freeing Tibet from the grip of China’s oppression and suppression.
Uighurs, Hong Kongers, and Tibetans have one similarity that makes them guilty in the eyes of Xi and the CCP: they have an identity and appreciation for something other than Xi and the CCP. Uighurs are an ethnically Muslim population devout to their religion, not devout to Xi. Hong Kongers have tasted freedom during the past quarter-century, have seen what life is like under Xi’s totalitarian fist, and are making it known they want to continue living freely. Finally, Tibetans have pride in their culture, history, and religion rather than in Xi and the CCP. This similarity of love, appreciation, self-respect, and pride in something or someone other than Xi and the CCP is the common denominator in these injustices, and the world must not tolerate China’s vicious and relentless pursuit for unfettered power.
There is a humanitarian outcry because of these injustices, and legislation has tried to right these wrongs. But few Christians cry out against the crimes. They ought to stand united against injustice, be a voice that calls for the end of oppression, and be advocates for peace in this world. If we wish to see an end to the injustices and tyrannical practices that China has implemented in recent years, we must speak out and pray for peace and justice in China. The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act and the Tibetan Policy and Support Act are good starts, in terms of acknowledging the injustices in China, but genocide and the systematic revoking of rights for certain peoples demand bold humanitarian, legislative, and Christian action.
Though most developed countries in our time have advanced beyond the archaic practices of forced labor camps and detention or reeducation centers, China has not. Sitting idly while knowing what is occurring is impermissible. This is a moral imperative for America and all other modern states, and particularly for Christians. We are called to do justice (Micah 6:8) and to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15), and these imperatives do not wane when the injustice and weeping are half a world away.